Going to Sleep Hungry

a poem by Henry Crawford as 2021 poet-in-residence at the Capital Area Food Bank

Going to Sleep Hungry

by Henry Crawford

Listen to the Audio Recording

Everyone has money on TV but here I am
sitting on a cold radiator eating handfuls of Cap'n Crunch
out of the box with my coat pulled over my head
worrying about homework cause I was hoping for some milk
but someone left it out so I ate from a jar of grape jelly
and you don’t see that on TV where they sit around
the kitchen picking things out of the fridge
and laughing together with spoonfuls of Mac and Cheese
pouring down from somewhere I wish I could taste
but I’m not on that show and I don’t know how
those kids on TV have the answers or how
their hands go up in class while I’m in the back row
dreaming out the window remembering that tonight
is Popeyes’ night and how much I love watching mom feel happy
but it doesn’t last that long and she comes back yelling
about those math questions and I remember
that I scribbled all over the answer sheet
and it’s late now as the kids on TV and even the TV dog
are eating mountains of Jell-O from golden bowls
and I’ve forgotten about the homework cause all I can think about
is wanting a mixed flavored Slurpee and hoping
there’ll be some milk left in the morning.

Henry Crawford, 2021


Going to Sleep Hungry...

...in a Land of Plenty


What does it mean for a child to go to sleep hungry? I’ve thought about this question ever since I wrote my poem, The Fruits of Famine in 2019. Put another way, what are the lifestyle implications for a child faced with food insecurity? It was this concern that was at the top of my mind during my time as poet-in-residence at the Capital Area Food Bank, talking with the volunteers and staff at CAFB and attending a food distribution at St. Camillus church in Silver Spring.

A child can be in a household with working parents and still suffer food insecurity when wages are insufficient to provide nutritionally healthy foods. In our own metro-Washington area, 1 in 10 residents is food insecure and nearly a third are children, like the young person in the poem. To combat this situation, the CAFB distributes 45 million meals each year and almost double that during the pandemic. When walking through the CAFB facility I was struck by the emphasis on wellness food. The child in the poem turns to eating grape jelly out of a jar. Food banks like CAFB are here to show us that it doesn’t have to be that way.

I wish to thank Hiram Larew and Poetry X Hunger as well as everyone at CAFB and St. Camillus for their knowledge and patience in helping to deepen my understanding of hunger and food insecurity.